Richmond Councilwoman pitches surveillance program with resident incentives

Richmond Councilwoman pitches surveillance program with resident incentives
(Source: NBC12)

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A Richmond City Councilwoman is proposing a program that would help fight crime, and homeowners would get paid for it!

Kristen Larson wants $50,000 in next year's budget to go towards a special surveillance program.

"When we're talking about a $750 million budget that we have, $50,000 to get something like this started is not a huge investment, and it could have really positive returns," Larson said.

A similar program in Washington, D.C. is what caught Larson's attention.

"With technology being a lot less expensive than it was years ago, and a lot of folks doing this anyway, this would be an opportunity for us to create a database of cameras we could access if we needed to."

The program would pay homeowners to place a surveillance camera on their property, with the agreement of sharing footage with police.

"I'd like to learn more," said Eric Zwicky, of the Woodland Heights neighborhood. "It could be good to gather data like that. It could also present the opportunity for abuse."

Zwicky has had surveillance cameras at his home for some time now.

He got them after many people in his Woodland Heights neighborhood installed them to try and catch petty crimes.

"Nuisance crimes like kids walking up and down the street in the middle of the night, checking door handles for doors that aren't locked," Zwicky said.
Larson's proposed program would make that concept more formal.

"We've heard from the Police Chief as well as the Commonwealth's Attorney that the videos are extremely helpful," she said.

The program would also come with an incentive for homeowners.

"They would be eligible to get a $100 rebate on the camera if they sign an agreement allowing Richmond Police Department to access the footage if a crime were to take place in the area," Larson said.

As many as 500 people would take part in the initiative by placing the cameras on their property facing the public right of way.

"[This is] most definitely [something I'd be interested in]," said Keith Benzin, of the Fan District. "Anything that will make the neighborhood safer."

While the details are still being worked out, some homeowners still have some hesitations.

"Some people could be concerned with invasion of privacy maybe, or some of those issues," Benzin said.

"It could be useful security wise, and going the other way, it could be really oppressive perhaps and present an opportunity for somebody to do nefarious things with it," Zwicky said.

"I have eight other council members. It's all up for discussion," Larson said. "I'm really just trying to put the idea out there, discuss it with my colleagues, and see what kind of consensus we come to."

City leaders are expected to address the proposal Monday, and weeks following.

At an informal city council meeting Monday afternoon, Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham said his team would reach out to the agency in Washington, D.C. to find out how they structured their program.

"We have to use technology in the city, police department, in our neighborhoods and communities to reduce crime," he said. "We have solved a number of property crimes, or crimes that occur in the city with folks giving us access or even a thumb drive or cd of that video footage."

Durham added Detroit, Michigan also has a similar program in operation.

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